About Degreeinfo

Discussion in 'Introductions' started by Chip, Mar 30, 2009.

  1. Chip

    Chip Administrator

    The following is taken from the (currently offline) articles section of DegreeInfo but gives some of the history of how we got here.

    DegreeInfo, Alt.Education.Distance, Les Snell, and the Gang of Six:
    The Origin of DegreeInfo.com

    The origin of DegreeInfo.com finds its roots in alt.education.distance, an unmoderated Usenet newsgroup that had long served as a forum for the topic of distance learning discussions. Over the years, many individuals made a.e.d a "home" of sorts, where lots of friendly discussion, the occasional heated debate, and humorous off-topic banter was exchanged.

    The operators of a handful of "less-than-wonderful" schools and degree mills also made appearances on a.e.d. from time to time, including Les Snell, an insurance broker with a suspended license who owned a diploma mill known as Monticello University. Monticello operated out of the back of Snell's insurance agency in Kansas, but claimed to be domiciled in Canada, while issuing degrees from Hawaii. (Such multi-national claims are a very common thing among degree mill operators, which makes it more difficult to prosecute them.)

    In 1998, Snell got so incensed with one particular group of regulars at a.e.d. who constantly exposed his fraudulent activities that he christened them the "Gang of Six," and tried to warn everyone away from comments made by any of the Gang. But, as is often the case in this business, Snell's attempts to discredit actually backfired, conferring an inadvertent and unexpected "credential of credibility" among those so named. Brought together by Snell, nearly all of the original Gang members met one another over the following couple of years at various Gang of Six meetings held whenever any two or more Gang members were in the same city at the same time.

    In early 2001, a new group of trolls showed up in a.e.d. This small group of unscrupulous individuals (posting under dozens of aliases) began flooding the newsgroup with literally hundreds of messages daily, usually attacking one or more individuals who had been longstanding opponents of degree mills. While such "flame wars" are a common occurrence on Usenet, this one was different, because it became obvious that these trolls had a clear agenda... to attempt to discredit those who spoke against unaccredited and less-than-wonderful programs, and to disrupt the flow of information about these bogus schools. In short, the bogus schools' incomes were being affected by the information being disseminated, and the schools decided to try and stop it. (In an interesting twist, the same trolls later tried to put forth a facade of decency, and claimed that DegreeInfo regulars were the ones spamming the newsgroup to promote their own programs. More on our objectivity and school associations below.)

    The Gang of Six, which by now numbered about 10 people and had a fairly active email communication "backchannel," discussed how to deal with the situation. Once it became clear that the normal "ignore the trolls" method wouldn't work, it was decided that an alternative forum should be started up for those who wanted flame-free and noise-free discussions. Bruce Tait was the first to come up with a solution, establishing an EGroups mailing list on distance education and inviting all of the regular contributors of a.e.d. to join. Unfortunately, the private distribution and non-threaded nature of email discussions prevented it from catching on in a big way, but it served as an important and valuable means of keeping the regular contributors in touch with one another.

    Around the same time, Chip White decided to launch a Web site with discussion board software that would closely simulate the open access of a.e.d., but still permit control over what was posted to prevent the board from becoming another flamefest or shillfest. Quickly realizing that it would be neither desirable nor possible to manage it alone, Chip enlisted the assistance of fellow Gang of Six members Russ Blahetka, Bill Gossett, Tom Nixon, and Bruce Tait to moderate the forum - and thus DegreeInfo.com was born!

    After operating DegreeInfo.com for over a year, paying for its expenses out of his own pocket, Chip decided to find a way to make the site pay for itself, so he recruited some folks to help transform this simple discussion forum into a full content portal for distance education. (The content and school search have been offline for some time, but will be back later this year.)

    Our Mission

    The founders (and regular contributors) of DegreeInfo.com are dedicated to the dissemination of accurate information regarding quality distance-based higher education programs. We believe that distance education is an incredibly important means of improving access to higher education for those who might not otherwise be able to earn a college degree; yet myth, rumor, ignorance, disinformation, and the unscrupulous business practices of a few people are often major obstacles to those who might benefit from a distance education. DegreeInfo.com's mission is to help remove these obstacles for as many people as possible.

    Bias, Objectivity, and Opposing Viewpoints

    We are not unbiased. We don't like fraudulent schools who intentionally mislead their prospective students about the value or accreditation of their degrees, nor do we like schools who don't mislead, but nonetheless "co-conspire" with "students" by providing them with degrees - for which little or no work was done - in exchange for cash. And we don't particularly like legal but less-than-wonderful programs (such as most unaccredited schools operated from various states where oversight is flimsy or nonexistent) either. What we do like are quality (which usually means regionally accredited or GAAP-accredited) distance learning programs, from which there are hundreds to choose.

    Occasionally, someone (usually a mill operator) will make the claim that DegreeInfo as an organization or its moderator/administratiive team members as individuals advocate only schools that they own, operate, or are otherwise affiliated with. Well, to start with, none of us (and this goes for our friend and mentor, John Bear, as well) have any current affiliation with any school, accredited or unaccredited. (Of course, some of us are alumni or students of regionally accredited DL programs.) And a check of our individual posts here at DegreeInfo as well as the newsgroup archive at groups.google.com will show that each of us has recommended many different schools over the years, the majority of which are nonprofit, state-run or affiliated colleges and universities... and nearly 100% of which are regionally accredited. We believe that the integrity of our collective record in recommending quality, accredited programs, without bias or any financial or other incentive, speaks for itself.

    Another claim sometimes heard from our detractors is that the DegreeInfo discussion board, with close to 300,000 posts as of March, 2009, is actually all comments and messages posted by a small number of people. Any forensic linguist (or anyone examining our site access logs) would tell you how ridiculous such assertions are. Our forum is comprised of some 10,000 registered participants, with about 7 times that number of lurkers. We welcome all posters, and we welcome dissenting viewpoints with the following qualification: We do not permit personal attacks or flaming, which includes the posting of inflammatory, offensive, or potentially libelous or defamatory information about any of our community participants. We do not permit individuals to post using more than one login identity. And we do not permit any school or program (regionally accredited or otherwise) or other commercial entity to shill for itself on our message boards. Because of these policies, and our commitment to maintain the DegreeInfo community, we do sometimes remove messages and ban users. But the total number of messages removed or edited within the last year represents less than 1/2 of 1% of the total messages posted.

    From the beginning, we've viewed DegreeInfo as a place where people genuinely interested in quality distance learning programs can come to discuss, learn, share, and help one another. With our new, content-based site, we hope to expand that vision and further foster the growth of a worldwide and truly interactive community of distance learning mentors, teachers, learners, and other interested people.

Share This Page